VPOTUS Swears-In Ken Juster as New U.S. Ambassador to India

Posted: 12:46 am ET
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Around the Foreign Service: Santa in a Tuk Tuk, Singing Marines, a Jingle Truck, and More (Photos)

Posted: 2:35 am ET
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US Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

US Embassy Nairobi, Kenya

US Embassy Port Au Prince, Haiti

US Embassy Manila, Philippines

USCG Frankfurt, Germany

USCG Karachi, Pakistan

US Embassy New Delhi, India

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Two Ambassadors Ride an Armorless Autorickshaw in India

Posted: 2:01 am EDT
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Via US Ambassador to India Richard Verma/Twitter:

“Showing @AmbassadorPower a true Delhi experience – powered by natural gas!”

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Photo of the Day: Ambassador Verma at the Golden Temple

Posted: 12:15 am EDT
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Via US Embassy New Delhi/FB:

“ਗੁਰਪੁਰਬ ਦੀਆਂ ਲੱਖ-ਲੱਖ ਵਧਾਈਆਂ I Gurupurab diyaan lakh-lakh wdaayiaan! A very happy #GuruNanakJayanti.”

 

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That’s US Ambassador to India Richard Verma paying his respects at the Golden Temple back in May during his Punjab visit.    Guru Nanak Jayanti is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion. It is the biggest festival among Sikhs all over the world and usually falls in October or November. This year, the Indian holiday was celebrated on November 25.

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Senate Confirmations: P. Michael McKinley (Afghanistan), Richard Verma (India)

— Domani Spero
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On December 9, the U.S. Senate slowly winding its business in town, confirmed the ambassadorial nominees for Afghanistan and India. There’s still a long list of nominees awaiting confirmation, but  the candle is growing short here; we don’t think many more will make it through this Congress. But here are the nominees who made it through the confirmation obstacle course on December 9:

 

Deputy Ambassador Michael McKinley traveled to Bagram Airfield today to help administer the Oath of Citizenship to 11 Service Members in the United States Armed Forces. (Via US Embassy Kabul/FB)

Deputy Ambassador Michael McKinley traveled to Bagram Airfield today to help administer the Oath of Citizenship to 11 Service Members in the United States Armed Forces. (Via US Embassy Kabul/FB)

Ambassador McKinley is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as Deputy Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan. A two-time Ambassador and four-time Deputy Chief of Mission, he is known for his gifted leadership and management abilities. A consensus builder with demonstrated interpersonal skills, broad expertise in high-level foreign policy negotiations and detailed knowledge of the region, he will bring essential skills to the task of furthering bilateral relations with the Government of Afghanistan, a nation of unsurpassed foreign policy importance to the United States Government in a critical region of the world.

Previously, Mr. McKinley served in the Department of State as Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Bogota, Colombia (2010-2013), Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Lima, Peru (2007-2010), Deputy Chief of Mission, United States Mission to the European Union, Brussels, Belgium (2004-2007), Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, Washington, D.C. (2001-2004), Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Brussels, Belgium (2000-2001), Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Kampala, Uganda (1997-2000), Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Maputo, Mozambique (1994-1997), Political Officer, U.S. Embassy London, United Kingdom (1990-1994), Special Assistant, Office of the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Washington, D.C. (1989-1990), Political Officer, Office of Southern African Affairs, Washington, D.C. (1987-1989), Political Officer, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Washington, D.C. (1985-1987) and Consular and General Services Officer, U.S. Embassy La Paz, Bolivia (1983-1985).

Mr. McKinley earned a MPhil and DPhil from Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom (1975-1982), and a B.A. from Southampton University, South Hampton, United Kingdom (1971-1975). He is the recipient of numerous awards from the Department of State, including a Presidential Meritorious Service Award (2011), 12 Senior Foreign Service Performance Awards, six Superior Honor Awards and two Meritorious Honor Awards. He speaks Spanish, Portuguese and French. via state.gov-McKinley, Michael P. – Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – September 2014

 

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Richard Rahul Verma serves as Senior Counselor to the global law firm of Steptoe & Johnson LLP, as well as to the Albright Stonebridge Group in Washington, DC.  His practice focuses on international law and regulatory issues, with a specialization in Asia and emerging markets.  Mr. Verma also serves as a Senior National Security Fellow at the Center for American Progress, where he directs their “India 2020” initiative.  Known as a talented leader and manager, he is recognized for his many years of experience working on high-level policy in the federal government, in the private sector and with non-governmental organizations, especially on matters relating to the affairs of South Asia and India, including political-military relations.  His knowledge and ability to set the agenda will enable him to strengthen bilateral relations with India, a pivotal nation of critical global importance to the U.S.

Previously, in Washington, D.C., he served as Assistant Secretary of State (Legislative Affairs), Department of State (2009-2011), Partner, Steptoe and Johnson LLP (2007-2009), Senior National Security Advisor, Office of the Senate Majority Leader (2006-2007), Senior National Security Advisor, Office of the Senate Minority Leader (2004-2006), Senior Counsel, Office of the Senate Democratic Whip (2003-2004), Foreign Policy Advisor, Office of Senator Reid (2002-2003) and Associate, Steptoe and Johnson (1998-2002).  Mr. Verma served on active duty as a First Lieutenant and Captain in the U.S. Air Force at Holloman, Air Force Base, New Mexico and Fort Meade, Maryland (1994-1998).  He was also Field Representative, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, Bucharest, Romania (1993-1994) and Staff Assistant, Congressman John P. Murtha (1991-1992).

 Mr. Verma earned a B.S. at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1990, a J.D., cum laude, at American University in 1993 and a LL.M, with distinction, at Georgetown University Law Center in 1998.  He is the recipient of a Distinguished Service Medal from the Department of State, the International Affairs Fellowship from the Council on Foreign Relations and a Meritorious Service Medal, a Commendation Medal and a National Defense Service Medal from the U.S. Air Force.  via state.govVerma, Richard R. – Republic of India – September 2014

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September 11 Remembrances From Around the World

— Domani Spero
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U.S. Embassy London, UK

Via U.S. Embassy London/Flickr (2013)

Via U.S. Embassy London/Flickr (2013)

U.S. Embassy Singapore

Commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, U.S. Embassy Singapore

Commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, U.S. Embassy Singapore (2011)

U.S. Embassy Canada

Hundreds of fire and rescue workers and their supporters participated in the 9-11 Memorial Ride.  Here, riders arrive at the Peace Arch. Photo via US Embassy Canada/Flickr (2011)

Hundreds of fire and rescue workers and their supporters participated in the 9-11 Memorial Ride. Here, riders arrive at the Peace Arch. Photo via US Embassy Canada/Flickr (2011)

U.S. Embassy Santiago, Chile

The Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S Embassy in Santiago, Stephen M. Liston, presided over an official ceremony of remembrance for the victims of the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania occurred on 09/11/2001 (US Embassy Chile - 2013))

The Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S Embassy in Santiago, Stephen M. Liston, presided over an official ceremony of remembrance for the victims of the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania occurred on 09/11/2001 (US Embassy Chile – 2013)

  U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv, Israel

The U.S. Embassy, Keren Kayemet Leisrael (KKL-JNF and KKL-USA), the city of Jerusalem and families of victims, gathered at the “9/11 Living Memorial” site at Emek Arazim, Jerusalem Hills Park to commemorate 10 years to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Photo by US Embassy Tel Aviv/FB (2011)

The U.S. Embassy, Keren Kayemet Leisrael (KKL-JNF and KKL-USA), the city of Jerusalem and families of victims, gathered at the “9/11 Living Memorial” site at Emek Arazim, Jerusalem Hills Park to commemorate 10 years to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Photo by US Embassy Tel Aviv/FB (2011)

U.S. Embassy Beijing, China

September 11th Ceremony, 9/11/11 via US Embassy Beijing/FB (2011)

September 11th Ceremony, 9/11/11
via US Embassy Beijing/FB (2011)

U.S. Embassy Canberra, Australia

10th Anniversary of September 11, U.S. Embassy Canberra, Australia. (2011) (Official U.S. Embassy photo by Adam P. Wilson)

10th Anniversary of September 11, U.S. Embassy Canberra, Australia. (2011)
(Official U.S. Embassy photo by Adam P. Wilson)

U.S. Embassy Wellington, New Zealand

10th Anniversary of 9-11. Commemoration Service, Wellington, New Zealand (2011)

10th Anniversary of 9-11. Commemoration Service, US Embassy Wellington, New Zealand (2011)

Christchurch, New Zealand

9/11 Memorial Service, Christchurch, New Zealand, September 11, 2010

9/11 Memorial Service, Christchurch, New Zealand, September 11, 2010

U.S. Consulate General Vancouver

Plaque Presentation at Vancouver International Airport  YVR Managing Director Larry Berg with U.S. Consul General Anne Callaghan beside a plaque expression thanks, presented to the airport by the Consul General on September 11, 2011.

A memorial plaque thanking the people of British Columbia for the assistance they extended to Americans and others on and after September 11, 2001. ‘In commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 the United States Consulate General in Vancouver, on behalf of the people of the United States, wishes to thank the people of British Columbia for their support and generosity following the events of that day. Canadians received diverted passengers unable to land at their U.S. destinations, opening not only their airports, but also their homes and hearts.’ 
Plaque Presentation at Vancouver International Airport YVR Managing Director Larry Berg with U.S. Consul General Anne Callaghan on September 11, 2011.

 U.S. Embassy Chisinau, Moldova

Prime Minister Iurie Leanca, accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration Eugen Carpov, today laid flowers at the Chisinau-based US embassy, in the memory of the victims of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attack in the USA.

Prime Minister Iurie Leanca, accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration Eugen Carpov, laid flowers at US Embassy Chisinau, Moldova in memory of the victims of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attack. (Photo via gov.md 2013)

 U.S. Embassy Yaounde, Cameroon

Embassy Yaounde Pauses to Remember 9/11 Colonel Morgan plays the bagpipes during the ceremony. [Photo by U.S. Embassy Yaounde] 2013

Embassy Yaounde Pauses to Remember 9/11
Colonel Morgan plays the bagpipes during the ceremony. [Photo by U.S. Embassy Yaounde] 2013

U.S. Embassy Kuwait, Kuwait

U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait, Deborah K. Jones and Brig. Gens. William Frink and James Walton, commander, 311th Sustainment and 335th Signal Commands, lead over 500 participants during the Freedom Walk held at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait, Sept 11, 2008.

U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait, Deborah K. Jones and Brig. Gens. William Frink and James Walton, commander, 311th Sustainment and 335th Signal Commands, lead over 500 participants during the Freedom Walk held at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait, Sept 11, 2008.

U.S. Embassy Paris, France

Ceremony at the Trocadero esplanade in Paris, September 11, 2011 Drapeau américain sur la Place du Trocadéro. Photo P.Maulavé U.S. Embassy Paris, France - 2011

Ceremony at the Trocadero esplanade in Paris, September 11, 2011
Drapeau américain sur la Place du Trocadéro. Photo P.Maulavé
U.S. Embassy Paris, France – 2011

U.S. Embassy Tokyo, Japan

(September 10, 2014) Flowers at a memorial for the Japanese victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Caroline Kennedy, U.S. Ambassador to Japan, participated in the memorial at the Mizuho Bank. The victims were working in the offices of Fuji Bank (now incorporated into the Mizuho Financial Group) in the World Trade Center in New York City. [State Department photo by William Ng/Public Domain]

 

U.S. Embassy New Delhi, India

 

 

 U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan

A steel carving of the lower Manhattan skyline on display during a during a 9/11 commemoration at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 11, 2011. DOD Photo by Master Sgt. Michael O'Connor

A steel carving of the lower Manhattan skyline on display during a during a 9/11 commemoration at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 11, 2011. DOD Photo by Master Sgt. Michael O’Connor

 

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Photo of the Day: Secretary Kerry in Traditional Scarf Ceremony in India

— Domani Spero
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Via state.gov

Secretary Kerry Participates in Traditional Scarf Ceremony Upon Arriving in India For Strategic and Economic Dialogue U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry bows to receive a scarf during a traditional arrival ceremony at his hotel in New Delhi, India, on July 30, 2014, after he traveled for a Strategic Dialogue with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzer. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Secretary Kerry Participates in Traditional Scarf Ceremony Upon Arriving in India For Strategic and Economic Dialogue
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry bows to receive a scarf during a traditional arrival ceremony at his hotel in New Delhi, India, on July 30, 2014, after he traveled for a Strategic Dialogue with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzer. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Secretary Kerry is in New Delhi for the 5th U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue,and is accompanied by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. Other members of the interagency trip include Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman, Department of Homeland Security Under Secretary Francis Taylor, and NASA Associate Administrator Michael O’Brien. The State Department’s does not have a Senate-confirmed assistant secretary for its Bureau of Energy Resources. Ambassador Carlos Pascual who announced he was stepping down as special envoy and coordinator for energy affairs has been succeeded by Amos Hochstein as acting special envoy and coordinator and Mr. Hochstein is accompanying Secretary Kerry to New Delhi.

Additional details of the trip available here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy Powell to Retire in May After 37 Years in the FS

— Domani Spero
The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi announced today the retirement of Ambassador Nancy Powell after 37 years in the Foreign Service:

Ambassador Nancy J. Powell Photo via US Embassy India/FB

Ambassador Nancy J. Powell
Photo via US Embassy India/FB

U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy J. Powell announced in a U.S. Mission Town Hall meeting March 31 that she has submitted her resignation to President Obama and, as planned for some time, will retire to her home in Delaware before the end of May.  She is ending a thirty-seven year career that has included postings as U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, Ghana, Pakistan, Nepal and India as well as service in Canada, Togo, Bangladesh, and Washington, where she was most recently Director General of the Foreign Service.  Ambassador Powell expressed her appreciation for the professionalism and dedication of the U.S. Mission to India team who have worked to expand the parameters of the U.S.-India bilateral relationship.  She also thanked those throughout India who have extended traditional warm Indian hospitality to her and who have supported stronger bilateral ties.

 

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Drowning in Smoggy Delhi: There’s No Blue Sky, So Where’s Blueair? (Updated)

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— Domani Spero

In December last year, Hindustan Times reported on how air and water pollution plagued Indian cities:

One in three people in India live in critically-polluted areas that have noxious levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and lung-clogging particulate matter larger than 10 micron (PM10) in size. Of the 180 cities monitored by India’s Central Pollution Control Board in 2012, only two — Malapuram and Pathanamthitta in Kerala — meet the criteria of low air pollution (50% below the standard).

The NYT also reported in February last year  that “The thick haze of outdoor air pollution common in India today is the nation’s fifth-largest killer.”

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response
Photo from January 11, 2013
(click on image to read more)

The State/OIG report from 2011 says that the health environment for US Embassy employees in India is “challenging, punctuated by frequent respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses.”  That’s putting it mildly.  Reports about the air pollution in India is nothing new but has not been as widely reported as the “fog” in China. That’s probably because we have @BeijingAir monitoring crazy bad air in China and no @DelhiAir to report on India’s bad air.  NYT reported this week that “The United States does not release similar readings from its New Delhi Embassy, saying the Indian government releases its own figures.” Click here to see NYT’s follow-up report why.

The Times of India notes that “Lately, a very bad air day in Beijing is about an average one in New Delhi” and cites disturbing comparative numbers between the two cities:

Clean Air Asia, an advocacy group, found that another common measure of pollution known as PM10, for particulate matter less than 10 micrometers in diameter, averaged 117 in Beijing in a six-month period in 2011. In New Delhi, the Center for Science and Environment used government data and found that an average measure of PM10 in 2011 was 281, nearly two-and-a-half times higher.

Of course, FS folks have been living and hearing about this for years.  Haven’t you heard — “If you have asthma or other breathing issues, think long and hard before committing to New Delhi?”  Last year, an FS member said, “Very unhealthy, especially for young children, during winter when dung, garbage, and everything else is burnt for warmth, and smog traps it within Delhi.”  In 2010, somebody assigned to New Delhi warned that “Asthma and skin disorders are on the rise.

We understand that you don’t get to see the blue sky for a couple of months. In 2011, somebody called it, “the worst in the world.”

This past weekend, Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy and Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network released its 2014 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.   The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranks how well countries perform on high-priority environmental issues in two broad policy areas: protection of human health from environmental harm and protection of ecosystems.

The announcement made special mention of improvement in India’s overall performance but cites dramatic declines on air quality. The announcement notes that “India’s air quality is among the worst in the world, tying China in terms of the proportion of the population exposed to average air pollution levels exceeding World Health Organization thresholds.

India ranks 155th out of 178 countries in its efforts to address environmental challenges, according to the 2014 Environmental Performance Index (EPI). India performs the worst among other emerging economies including, China, which ranks 118th, Brazil, at 77th, Russia, at 73rd, and South Africa at 72nd.
[…]
In particular, India’s air quality is among the worst in the world, tying China in terms of the proportion of the population exposed to average air pollution levels exceeding World Health Organization thresholds.

“Although India is an ‘emerging market’ alongside China, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa, its environment severely lags behind these others,” said Angel Hsu of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and lead author of the report.“ Very low GDP per capita coupled with the second highest population in the world means India’s environmental challenge is more formidable than that faced by other emerging economies.”

Image via http://epi.yale.edu

Image via http://epi.yale.edu

This is not a health hazard that just showed up yesterday. So we were surprised to hear that at a town hall meeting at Embassy New Delhi, a medical professional reportedly said that none of the government issued embassy purifiers at the mission do the fine particles.

Wait, the US Embassy in New Delhi issued air purifiers that do not work for the  finest particles — the particles that do the most damage?

How did that happen?

Some folks apparently are now buying their own air purifiers. A mission member reportedly spent $1600 for purifiers to allow a breath of clean air inside the house.

Dear US Embassy India, we would have liked an official comment, but your public affairs ninja ignores email inquiries.  Call me, maybe — we’d like to know which smart dolt spent all that money for decorative air purifiers.

On a related note, early this month, China Daily reported that in December last year, the US Embassy in Beijing ordered 2,000 air purifiers  for its employees in the country from Blueair, a Swedish manufacturer:

The cheapest model from Blueair, the Blueair 203, costs 3,590 yuan ($591) from Torana Clean Air, Blueair’s official seller in Beijing, while it sells for $329 on the Best Buy and Amazon websites in the US.  The order placed for air purifiers by the US embassy was handled by the Swedish company’s American supplier, and the unit price was not disclosed.

We don’t know what types of purifiers were issued at US Embassy India.  Popular brands like Blueair, Panasonic, Daikin, Sharp, Yadu, Honeywell are compared here as used in China via myhealthbeijing.  There is also a review of air purifiers by the Consumer Report that should be worth looking into; the report is only available to subscribers.  Or check with MED which should have this information available.

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State Dept’s Bureau of Neglected Disease – Dengue+Encephalitis, What Help Is There?

— By Domani Spero

She joined the Foreign Service over 20 years ago.  Among her overseas postings were New Delhi, Damascus, Alexandria, Northern Iraq, and Beirut.  In 2009, she opened the new Consulate’s PD shop in Hyderabad.  In 2010, she contracted dengue fever. And encephalitis. She was medevaced to Singapore and spent 10 days at a hospital there.  That was not her only hospital confinement.

In the November 2013 issue of Foreign Service Journal, FSO Juliet Wurr writes:

“Over the next year, first in Hyderabad and then in Washington, D.C., I discovered and then struggled to cope with the repercussions of my illness. My doctor concluded that my now-unreliable memory, constant drowsiness and cognitive impairment were all the result of my encephalitis. I knew that my Foreign Service career had come to an end.”

The CDS describes Dengue (pronounced den’ gee) as a disease caused by any one of four closely related dengue viruses (DENV 1, DENV 2, DENV 3, or DENV 4). The viruses are transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. The CDS says that with more than one-third of the world’s population living in areas at risk for transmission, dengue infection is a leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics. There are reportedly as many as 100 million people infected yearly.   In September this year, the NYT reported about India’s dengue problem.  In October, the Raw Story called it New Delhi’s “mysterious dengue fever epidemic.

Click on image to see an interactive Dengue map of the word.

Click on image to see an interactive Dengue map of the word.

Dengue is an endemic illness in India, the second-most populous country in the world.  Anecdotal reports suggest that the U.S. Embassy in Delhi has about half a dozen dengue cases among mission members this year alone. We’ve requested information on current mission-wide dengue cases and medevaced cases but have not heard anything back.

A separate report in the Indian Critical Care Medicine notes that “Encephalopathy is a very common neurological complication of dengue fever. Dengue encephalopathy is usually secondary to multisystem derangement like shock, hepatitis, coagulopathy, and concurrent bacterial infection.”  Encephalitis is the irritation and swelling of the brain that can be mild and short and results in full recovery. Or it can be severe with permanent impairment or death as a possibility.  For more on encephalitis, see the National Institute of Health.

In an email to this blog, Ms. Wurr writes:

“I think there is a huge gap in what State can do statutorily and what morally they should do.  If employees and the public realized this I think they would be outraged.  I want to do all I can to publicize because there are simple changes they can do that don’t depend on legislation.  I am retiring six years earlier than expected.  State refuses to advocate for me with Department of Labor Workers Comp.  I am receiving no compensation for my $500+ medical bills each month or for wages lost.”

Ms. Wurr said that she had been to the Office of Medical Services and the Bureau of Human Resources, who “were kind and welcoming, but eventually they admitted they had nothing to offer me.” She had also been to the Office of Casualty Assistance twice, and told this blog, “They said there was nothing they could do.”

She had filed a claim at the Labor Department’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs last year. It was denied. She had refiled that claim, it was denied for the second time. The reason for the denials, “I could not convince Labor that my illness was caused by being in India as an employee of the Department of State.”

She’s up for a third filing, and has now hired a lawyer.

If this story sounds familiar, it’s because it happened before.

Remember Frank Pressley who was wounded in the East Africa bombing and had filed for permanent disability? The  Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs and the State Department’s Office of Casualty Assistance (OCA) both made the news:

Compensation claims examiners questioned the precise percentage of Pressley’s handicap. Two non-government doctors administered tests and said the arm was 78 percent disabled, permanently. The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs said it was only 40 percent disabled.

Hoping to minimize runarounds, he contacted Kendall B. Montgomery, director of the State Department’s Office of Casualty Assistance, which was established in 1999 in response to the embassy bombings.

“I get no assistance, no options, no real help,” he e-mailed last summer. “I’m afraid that nothing is going to happen unless I get a lawyer. That would be very sad for me. I trust the system, my country.”

“Frank, I understand — and share — your frustration,” Montgomery told him in a December e-mail. The federal workers’ compensation program “is just not meeting its obligations to you and many others. The system is broken, but there is no will to fix it.”

After The Washington Post inquired about the status of Pressley’s disability compensation, government officials including the State Department’s Office of Casualty Assistance suddenly got their Minute Maid:

The State Department’s Kendall Montgomery vowed she would push for “speedy approval” of medical treatments for injured employees mired in the federal compensation system.

“We’re putting a very high priority on it,” she told The Post while a public affairs official monitored her words. “We’re once again trying to start a new round of discussion between ourselves and the Department of Labor. . . . We do hope they’re fruitful discussions.” 

Soon after, the Department of Labor stopped disputing Mr. Pressley’s claim to a 78 percent disability in his left arm and paid up.

But whatever “fruitful discussions” the State Department conducted with the Department of Labor back in 2002, the result is clear.  We sent email inquiries to the Office of Casualty Assistance (OCA) and the Family Liaison Office (FLO) asking what type of assistance their offices provide to cases like Ms. Wurr’s in ensuring that sick/injured employees mired in the federal compensation system are not stuck there. We also wanted to know more information about the State Department and specifically OCA’s role in advocating for cases before DOL’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs.

Today, we received a one-sentence response to our email and a non-response to our questions from Kirk A. Leach, the director of the State Department’s Office of Casualty Assistance.

“The Department is fully supportive of Ms. Wurr’s case and is actively engaged in advocating her position with the Department of Labor’s Office of Worker’s Compensation.”

That’s the same office, who according to Ms. Wurr, gave this response: “They said there was nothing they could do.” After learning of  OCA’s response to our inquiry, Ms. Wurr was surprised.  If they are working on her behalf, she said, “they kept it secret from me.” LOL!

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